By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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On Saturday, Thomas caught a big fish.
Sunday was his 68th birthday.
That big fish he caught Saturday won him $10,000 on Monday.
And finally, on Tuesday, he celebrated his wedding anniversary.
Thomas, who is from Mount Vernon, is the grand-prize winner of the 2013 Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby, which was held last weekend.
The derby, put on the by the Gardiner Salmon Derby Association, is being hailed as a success.
“Good weather and a strengthening economy gave us a great derby,” association president Dan Tatum said.
“This was a great event, and the fishing results prove it — we caught more fish than ever before in recent memory.”
A record 351 winter blackmouth chinook salmon were submitted, which topped the 2011 record of 248 fish, with an average weight of 7.52 pounds (fish weights are in decimal pounds, not pounds and ounces).
Approximately 820 tickets were sold, more than 175 more than were sold for last year's derby.
Thomas reeled in his 15.9-pound blackmouth at 8:10 a.m. on Saturday, the opening day of the derby, and had to wait two and a half days to see if his big catch would remain atop the prize ladder.
His winner was caught just west of Protection Island using an orange herring.
Lauren Selvig of Port Orchard won the $2,000 second prize with a 14.8-pound salmon, while Don White of Hansville took home the $1,000 third prize with a 14.35-pound blackmouth.
The highest-finishing North Olympic Peninsula angler was Mark Reynolds of Port Angeles, who took seventh place with a 13.4-pound fish.
In all, there were 45 winning fish. The smallest prize-winner was 10.1 pounds, and the average prize-winning weight was 11.66 pounds.
The prize list totaled $21,995.
The large cash prizes were funded through derby ticket sales, but all other prizes were donated by individuals and businesses.
The derby proceeds will go toward a large equipment donation for the Diamond Point volunteer fire station.
Tatum said more information on this donation will be provided at the annual potluck Appreciation Dinner on March 30 at the Gardiner Community Center.
As for Thomas, he plans to use the proceeds from his derby win to replace the four downrigger balls he lost during the salmon derby.
The life-long angler estimates he has participated in 30-40 derbies, and this wasn't his first win — in 2003, he won the Shaw Island contest.
The North Olympic Peninsula Chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers is holding its annual dinner and auction fundraiser on Friday at SunLand Golf and Country Club in Sequim.
The proceeds from this auction provide the majority of funding for the annual Olympic Peninsula Kids Fishing Program held at the Sequim water reclamation pond.
They also help fund the club's annual college scholarship program for a Sequim High School graduate who is or will be pursuing a degree in the natural resources field.
The event kicks off with a silent auction at 5 p.m., which features a wide assortment of sports merchandise, and runs through the evening.
Dinner will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and will consist of the usual spaghetti dinner with red or clam sauce, garlic bread and tossed salad.
There will also be a “no host” cash bar for the purchase of spirits, wine, beer and soft drinks. Coffee and bottled water will be provided.
The main event, a live auction, is scheduled to start after dinner, at about 7 p.m.
Live auction items include fishing trips with renowned guides on North Olympic Peninsula rivers for salmon and steelhead; charter boat trips for salmon, halibut and bottom fish out of Pacific Ocean ports and the Strait; and saltwater trips offered by club members departing out of Port Angeles, Sequim or Sekiu for salmon or halibut.
For more information or to confirm attendance or reservations, phone 360-461-6060.
Outdoors columnist Lee Horton appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.